Recently I was privileged to have a long conversation with a former student. She was an excellent student of DBT, doing her work diligently and using text coaching very effectively. Her intellect demanded respect, even though we didn’t (and don’t) agree on many issues.

The genesis of the conversation was some comment I made a couple of years ago in passing where I said something about my beliefs on the “right to life” versus a woman’s right to choose. The abortion debate. Sigh… I am very much, even staunchly, pro-life. I realize that the subject is a complex one, but at the end of the day I just believe that the right to life is the first of the ascribed “unalienable rights.”

I was taken to task (reasonably so I must add) and was asked to be Radically Open to her point of view. I think I was, but I could hear the exasperation in her voice. It reminded me of my daughter’s exasperation when discussing similar subjects. I grew frustrated, not because we were disagreeing, but because an irony became very apparent: her desire for me to be radically open and subsequent exasperation when I “wasn’t” was a function only of her not being open to my point of view. The phrase “you’re not hearing me!” echoed in memory. What it usually means is not that I am not listening, it is that I am not agreeing and you don’t like it.

It was so similar to my daughter’s response, although Hayley is much better informed (usually.) When I mentioned actually reading the Dobbs decision and asking if she had, the answer was no. I had asked Hayley to read it also and she hadn’t, and both took what was, in my opinion, a shallow perspective on what it actually was. And I was painted by both with an unfair and, honestly, insulting brush. I actually read the decision, have thought a great deal about the topic of abortion, and have what I think is a reasonable opinion on the matter. But, and here it comes, the real problem is that I am a 65 year old white man and therefore am asserting my authority in saying they are wrong, in daring to dissent. How dare I?! I should check my privilege. I despise that phrase…

Let’s check some facts (one of my favorite DBT skills!) I am 65 years old. This implies that I have some experience. Oh hell, it doesn’t imply anything – I DO have experience. I am “white.” I do understand the privilege aspect of this but that is for another post. I have a Master’s degree, so I am highly educated. The tests say I am highly intelligent. Setting aside self-deprecatory statements it is just a fact. I read about and sometimes even study topics that interest me, such as the social issue of abortion. Oh, and I was adopted at 3 days old. I have a right to and have formed a reasonable opinion on this. I do in fact speak with some authority. That’s what people like me do (the older, educated and experienced) so why is it so off-putting?!

Where I was insulted, the brush that was applied to me, was that I had a need to be right about my opinion. That my authority was correct and should be followed. Respected even. And that I would be offended if dissent was offered. No, the truth is quite the opposite. I am open to the opinions of others. I welcome dissent. Why? Because I am informed and have actually applied whatever critical thinking capabilities I have to the subject. It hurts to be labled “closed off” or even “bigoted.” It. Is. Insulting.

I have the authority of some modicum of wisdom. I don’t like it when that is ignored but I don’t cling to the offense. Because I don’t need to be right. And the irony is that those who now make the accusation of being closedminded are in fact guilty themselves. In fairness I suppose I have to acknowledge the reality that the white patriarchy exists and is the root of many of our problems. But to stereotype me and by extension ignore my thoughts and opinions is just as bad. Hell, it’s exactly the same thing!

Our freedom, our opportunity to evolve as individuals and a society, depend utterly on civil discourse, the reasoned exchange of ideas, and the acknowledgment that age does in fact bring wisdom, or at least experience, and as such should be included in the examination of the discussion. The killer, on both sides, is the need to be right. Need is evidence of the service of Self, nothing greater or noble. So instead of the rude, disrespectful and insulting “check your privilege” how about “check your need.” That alone will free us to communicate, learn, and grow.

Ps: It occurred to me that I too have had and still have a problem with authority. I question it at all times. I used to become actively disrespectful of authority when I didn’t agree with it. I was obnoxious and disrespectful. Until I started making the rules, until I became the authority. There is one key difference now: I understand the evolution of useful rules and those that aren’t so much. I have a modicum of discernment. And I don’t mind if my rules, my opinions, even my beliefs are questioned. Just do your doubting with some respect for the effort put in and the time.


I am noticing today that my urges to smoke are pretty much aligned with “punctuation”, those spaces around and in between various things. And that’s all it really is. Smoking doesn’t change anything or enable me to do anything in particular, it just fills space. And space, while fine and dandy, is the real enemy I have. It’s weird – I have so many things I could be doing: playing my guitar and learning a new tune, a kintsugi project, my cursive lessons, reading, working on my various writing projects. But I don’t. Instead I watch teevee, browse music videos, nap. If I’m not working I’m not doing much of anything. And I find that smoking does not serve any purpose whatsoever, it just helps fill spaces.

I need structure, even to the point of being told what to do. This is why I could never be an entrepreneur. I am unable to provide my own structure. Not much anyway. Even now I have an urge to go smoke and think about what I’m writing, even though it won’t make this piece any better or allow for more work. It’s a punctuation, a pause.

I need structure. Accountability to someone else. As an example, tonight I will bake a cake for my clinical director’s birthday tomorrow. Minal loves my flourless chocolate cake, as does my wife. Saber will get a small piece. But I wouldn’t bake the cake or any other goody except that it serves another and there’s a clock on it.

The first edition of my Stage 3 DBT manual, originally titled Pyretic Patterns, only came about because Minal put a clock on me. The second edition, re-named Dialectical Patterns, is sitting on my desktop gather digital dust. Because the momentum has gone from the project. I need structure, I need a deadline. I need accountability and collaboration. I need help.

Nietzsche wrote “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Or as I tend to paraphrase it, “When your Why is strong enough you can tolerate most any How.” I guess I currently don’t have a Why. Or at least my Why isn’t strong enough to overcome my inherent inertia, to interrupt my personal positive feedback loop. And what is just super annoying is that I am aware of it.

My Emotional Mind right now is crying out to give up, say “Fuck It!” and admit that I am a smoker, always will be. 50 years is too much to overcome. It may be right.

But for right now I will impose structure by going and vacuuming the living room. I guess I will find meaning in the mundane, as the noble or worthwhile eludes me. It’s something though. For now.

I need structure, something to point at, work towards. I understand goal setting and all that. I have several goals both short and mid-term. But something is missing. Maybe it’s not structure. Whatever it is I hope to find it before I run out of time.

We went to a show!

One day while wandering around the internet, bored, I stumbled across a link to a band doing a cover of Suite Judy Blue Eyes, the Crosby Stills and Nash classic. The video was several years old (like 2010 or something) and the group performing it was called Foxes and Fossils. They were performing at a pizza place or something, TV screens visible in the background, folks coming and going, seemingly indifferent to the musicians. After introducing the song as a classic they began. And I was captivated. The musicianship and vocals were superb – professional – and from what appeared to be just a sort of family band, not even pros. A few friends getting together to play some music on occasion. And they were mind-blowingly good. The song note for note but not robotic, and the harmonies blended effortlessly. I was overjoyed.

I watched many of their other videos, all from the same restaurant and even in what appeared to be a parking lot of a taco joint, and all were just unbelievable. I wondered how such talent could be thrown away in some barely roped off parking lot – why weren’t they playing someplace of substance, commanding reasonably serious ticket prices? See (and hear) for yourself and I think you’ll agree.

I got very excited when Tim Purcell, the leader of the band, announced they were working on a reunion show. All of the members had pretty much gone their own ways; college, career, gigging around but not as F&F. Those days were gone it seemed. But COVID happened and millions of others were as bored as I was and stumbled upon this treasure trove too. 80 million views later it seemed there was actually a market for their music, even if they were “just” a cover band. One day the announcement came that a reunion show was going to happen. two nights in late December at some event venue in Hapeville. I had to look it up… I figured they would book the Fabulous Fox Theater or somewhere equally superior and capacious, but it was “The Legendary Ford Hall”, basically a place where weddings and such are held. Huh, go figure. And the tickets were $100 each. This I had planned on and was more than happy to pay, which is pretty amazing as I tend to bitch about ticket prices being insane for most every show I have any interest in. Hell, the B-52 shows were all like a buck fifty and higher, and that was for crappy seats.

We decided to make a thing of it and booked a hotel room for the night and planned (loosely) to go out to eat before the show. A regular date night! As most of you don’t know Saber and I, this was quite the event.

Everything leading up to the show was as expected, or at least not out of the ordinary. Traffic was horrible, I got lost a bit in Hapeville but we found the venue and a place to eat that was passably good (Mexican, nothing too fancy) and returned to the hotel to refresh and prepare for the big event.

Upon arrival they seemed to have things pretty well in hand; there were folks at the door scanning our digital tickets, we were directed to the general area of our seats (reserved but section and row only for some reason) and they were decent enough although I was concerned about the mix being any good from one side of the room. I am very sensitive to the sound quality for two reasons: one, I am a trained sound engineer and so I am of course critical of any mix that isn’t mine, and two (ironically) my hearing aids (stop laughing!) were uncertain as the “live music” setting was different than on my old ones and hadn’t been properly tested. But scoping out the equipment they had on hand and I was impressed. Line array speakers, hanging subs, and (gasp!) Digico mixing desks. Wow! This was Broadway level gear! Thus began the journey of strange contrasts that is the focus of this discourse.

Before the show I spotted some of the band wandering around the audience chatting folks up. It was a sold out house, which I was happy for as the energy is much better, and the Fossils seemed to be relaxed and ready to have fun. And that my friends was what they had – fun. It was all so casual but still serious. I mean, they were charging real money for this show, although I would bet that a quarter of the audience was friends and family and had come the night before too.

At this point in time (today is Wednesday and the show was last Friday) I don’t remember the set list or really hardly any song in particular, other than they didn’t play either Aimee or Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. I’ll come back to that in a minute. I noticed several things (besides the fact that my hearing aids just SUCK for live music) First, the whole thing teetered on the edge of being a backyard get together of friends playing music (quite well) and a professional performance. That was the charm of it, completely without pretense or affectation. They were all truly genuine; obviously talented but humble. Accessible.

I noticed – mostly because I have experienced it playing live with others – that even though the drummer counted off the start to a song they were often ever so slightly tentative – just a bit off at the start of several tunes. On one occasion they never really found the groove and it was weird. But on the others, in spite of a janky start, they quickly found the pocket and just killed. Back yard fooling around, not quite all there, to world class. All in a couple of measures.

F&F is really a vocal group that play instruments, and their pipes were dialed in. I adore multi-part harmonies and the closing song, Seven Bridges Road by the Eagles, completely delivered and was truly satisfying. Which leads me to my two chief (and valid) complaints. First: Darwin, ALWAYS BRING A BACKUP GUITAR! Your fussing with your acoustic was annoying, distracting, and completely unnecessary. And second, why on earth didn’t y’all do Aimee or Suite: Judy Blue Eyes? WHY WHY WHY?!? To be completely honest, the latter was the one song I really wanted to hear. Dammit. Maybe next time. And I really hope there is a next time. I’ll still pay a hundred.

Sadly, it is unlikely I will attend a live show again unless I can figure out my ears. It’s just painful, uncomfortable, and frustrating in the extreme to not hear what there is to be heard, and on top of it some weird transient clanging that is obviously the damn things clipping. Grrrrr.

If you haven’t already, please check out Foxes and Fossils on YouTube. You’ll be glad you did. And maybe I’ll see you at the next show!


Today is Day 45. I quit smoking six weeks ago. After nearly 50 years I decided to stop. Yay, right? Of course it’s easier said than done. In fact it’s been rather unpleasant but not in the ways it was 12 years ago when I only tried to. Some would say I’m cheating by using nicotine patches, but it makes sense to me: it’s not so much the nicotine but the habit, the routine, the pattern that is so hard to move past. So I’m supporting myself with the patches while I work on creating a new rhythm to life.

And THAT is very hard to do. It’s the empty spaces that are so tough. And I have too many of them. I’m sort of retired, meaning that I work as much as I want to and make my own schedule. But sadly I still have to work, having been financially childish for a long time. Still, I only work about 20-25 hours a week. In fairness, in my particular line of work this is about all one can do. 30 would be a killer and I would almost certainly burn out. 25 is just right; it provides good income but affords enough time to decompress. It is also sustainable week in and week out. Mostly. But there are the inevitable cancellations and no-shows that make my head explode. Not really, but it throws off my rhythm and I don’t like that.

I noticed one night, after several nights of poor sleep, that I was once again struggling to sleep and worried that lack of sleep was feeding the anxiety I was experiencing during the day. And I have never been an anxious person. Depressed? Sure, but never anxious. This new anxiety presents as real physical pain in my chest, sometimes to the point of feeling like I’m having a heart attack. I know I’m not but damn it’s uncomfortable. It passes, and I notice the sense of quiet – like I feel right now – as the counterpoint to the discomfort.

As I lay there, worrying about not sleeping, trying my best to find some thread of thought to hold onto, it occurred to me that sleep was not going to happen and what was it that I really wanted? After wandering about for a bit the word “rest” dropped in. Yes, that was it, what I wanted. To rest. I was reminded of a time, years ago, when I was first attending a men’s Bible study. I was asked to lead the discussion the following week on Hebrews 4 (I think?) and I was scared to death. The idea that confounded me was “rest” and what that meant. I fumbled through it but that night, laying there sleepless, I understood.

I set aside, laid down, any concern for sleep or for that matter anything else. I was unconcerned, I had done all I could for now and that was it. I ceased to need anything; I only needed to rest.

And so I did.

The irony of need is remarkable. When we learn to let go of need, knowing that God will provide what is necessary to serve His purposes, we are able to rest, to lay down the burdens and not worry. Worry never solved anything, need only occasionally. Check in with yourself and find where need is creating the ironic barrier and set it aside. Rest.

Emptying the Nest

Our Dear Darling Daughter Hayley (D3H) has flown the coop. My brain and heart are out of synch and will be for some time. She had moved to Asheville several years ago, but that town is only a few hours away and was an easy drive/ride. Denver? Not so much. Hayley burned her life to the ground; she quit her job of 15 years, sold her stuff and kept only that which fit in her car, and left. But she has earned the right to do this. Debt free, plenty of cash on hand and a healthy 401k. The kid has her shit together. She has a place to live in Denver, a college dorm thing (?!) and has yet to move in or even find a job. But she will. It’s nice to have that kind of confidence in your child.

But now Saber and I are truly on our own, alone in a new way. We are really truly empty nesters. Ugh. We don’t like it. It’s bad enough that Philip and his family are almost on another planet (L.A. really is…) but over the years we have become accustomed to it and see them as often as we can. That sense of distance is difficult… D3H is another thing. We have 30 years of her presence, along with 6 (?) of DDD Teddy (Dear Darling Dog, or D3T.)

Today is the beginning of the ritualized cleaning of the nest. It’s not because D3T was not entirely paper disciplined but a ground up reordering of our home. We began last night with the recaulking of the shower and started today with the living room carpet cleaning. Gross. It’s a process, a ritual, and symbolic (to me anyway) of a mostly blank piece of paper on which Saber and I are writing the next chapters of our lives. Other than our jobs nothing else is off the table, keep/discard, stay/go, whatever we want to do and whenever. Mostly of course, regardless of what American Express says we can do.

I have wanted to move to the Rockies for ever, and with D3H leading the way it is much more likely that we will. When? Who knows. 2 years? 3? Saber is getting on board; as we are pointing at a new car in the next year or so she is talking about a 4×4 or all-wheel drive vehicle. It’s a start! If and when we go we will follow Hayley’s example and scorched-earth our lives, offloading nearly everything (except my Kitchenaid mixer of course!)

I like blank sheets of paper. So much – or little – can be written on them. Each new day is in a sense this, and what we choose to write is much more accessible that most think. We have a sad tendency to become attached to our stuff, not recognizing the enslavement (too strong?) that ensues. Other than the basics nothing is off the table. Sell, give away or throw away anything that creates a burden, gets in the way or is no longer useful. Diminish the burden of chaos and enter into the experience of less. Every day is an opportunity to rethink, well, everything! Our daily routines, what we eat, the style of dress we have (not) cultivated, everything. One day at a time of course, but the idea of choice is powerful; it’s the only real freedom we have, to examine ourselves and choose our responses.

I am diminished

I was recently confronted with another case of self-hatred and its unpleasant effects. It is not something I am unfamiliar with so it gave me pause. I have to admit that I am mostly cured of this unpleasantness but there are the occasional echoes, as the facts are, well, the facts.

It is the facts that matter not the emotion about them. I know I have written about this before, but as rabbit holes go this is one worth revisiting and looking for side tunnels. The intensity of the emotional judgment of ourselves can be overwhelming, even to the point of considering suicide. And that is just not acceptable! I mean really, wanting so badly to die because of some real or (mostly) perceived inadequacy or “failure”? We only fail when we stay stuck in the emotion and therefore don’t learn anything!

The sad thing is that these emotional echoes are so deeply painful in the present moment, so nauseatingly noisy, and it is very difficult to see them for what they are: noise. Just. Noise. The factual memory versus the emotional one, and the reality (that word should be in all caps) that even our factual memory is distorted by our emotional memory. It is the Observation/Perception loop at work. What we observe through our senses is factual. Is is information. But our pattern of interpreting and giving meaning to the information (perception) takes on a life of its own and informs (more like distorts) our observations. We see what we believe, we see things as We Are not as they are. And the pattern deepens and becomes more distorted over time.

When we experience self-loathing or hatred we are judging ourselves through these distorted lenses of perception, projecting the imagined judgment of others onto ourselves. Those perceived judgments have a root in fact: as a child we seek the approval of our caregivers. This is an evolutionary function as it provides a sense of safety. But if we receive disapproval, even rejection of our efforts, one of two things happen: we try harder or we retreat. This is a function of temperament but the pattern is established. And if we don’t figure it out the distortions take root and create wobbles, eventually spinning out of control like an Iranian centrifuge.

Hatred diminishes me. That word – diminishes – is exactly right. It is a lessening of self, a burden that bends the spine of confidence. The other word – hatred – is so toxic, so infectious. It is a cheap, throw-away word but it should not be used, or at least with some consideration. These days hate is conjoined with “phobia”, as in homophobia or transphobia. It is so au courant to throw those labels around but they are too often wildly inaccurate.


  1. A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.
  2. A strong fear, dislike, or aversion.

It is said that people fear what they don’t understand. The problem it seems is that folks don’t want to understand. We’ve already made up our minds through the lenses of our best thinking and say we understand, but of course we don’t. Don’t get me wrong, understanding does not equate to approval, but at least there may be some clarity and by extension acceptance (which also does not equate to approval.) Someone recently said that (based on something I said) I am homophobic. It’s laughable that this would be their judgment and it stung a little, but listening through their ears I can see why they would think that.

Set aside your judgment (of others or yourself) and look for understanding. Look for the smudges on your lenses that inform the discomfort and even agony of hate. Stop using the word! Stop feeding the pattern and give yourself an opportunity to learn, to understand, and to be, to some degree, free.

Life inside the guardrails

“This far and no further.” That is the story of my life. It seems that God has put guardrails around me that have protected me (and others) from myself my whole life. While I have banged up against them far too often, they have kept me from becoming something I was not meant to be, kept me on the path that God intended all along. The dreaded “if only’s” or “what if…” are now abundantly clear, and the sense of freedom and deep gratitude flow freely in. I am grateful not only for what I have but for what I lack, what I missed out on – the emotional mind judgment of missing out.

I was born with certain (for lack of a better word) peculiarities. I have an attachment disorder that cracked into existence when I found out, at the age of 5 or so, that I was adopted. My uncle introduced me to his buddies at the barbershop as “the adopted one” and it just broke me. I didn’t know what it meant but it sounded so bad – I was bad. It didn’t help that I was as yet undiagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. That wouldn’t happen for many years, but in hindsight it makes so much sense. A broken sense of self/others, combined with a predisposition to not comprehend others as most do, firmly set me into “Other” land, and there I remain. I also have dysthymia, a chronic, low-grade depression. Combined with the aforementioned stuff this means I am deeply sentimental and broadly speaking just a wee bit sad. Always. There is also the fact of my intelligence and what all the tests say, to which I always rebut with Axiom Number One: “It’s not so much What you know, but what you Do with what you know that matters.” And last but most certainly not least the trauma of having an alcoholic for a parent and the various family dynamics that go along with that. I say these things not to garner pity or sympathy but to just lay the groundwork in facts.

As I read through my FBR work (Fast, Bad, Rong) a couple of themes emerge. First is my amazing lack of self-discipline. I rarely have ever really worked hard at anything – writing included – and always did as well as I did, as it suited me at the time. I also noticed along these lines a sense of self-criticism that judged my performance in whatever as being inadequate, but no motivation to do better, to work harder. Mostly. I did train some in climbing and guitar, but only as it occurred to me in the moment, not with any ambition for long term accomplishment.

The other flows I think from my social awkwardness. I am almost devoid of ambition, that drive to excel. It just doesn’t register any more than social cues do. The social math was always “for me to do better you must do worse” and I could’t stand the thought of harming someone like that. While I’m much better now at reading situations I’m still easily confused in certain ways with certain people, and I still lack the motivation to work hard to some end without a real kick in the butt from someone. I have no idea what my headroom actually is. In anything.

There are another pair of themes in evidence that illustrate clearly my life inside the guardrails. The first is from my climbing “career.” I use that word very loosely of course. But I was very very good at it but never achieved what I could have. It would not have served the Purpose. I was the lead member of an expedition to the Himalaya but a war broke out. I on-sighted an obscenely difficult “X” route (X meaning if you fall you die.) I on-sighted most everything I ever tried. No falls, first try. I didn’t like falling; growing up all the books I read always said “the leader does not fall” so that informed my thinking even before I did my first rock climb. I free-soloed up 35 feet but then backed off, fearing the possibility of landing on a car underneath me (I was afraid of damaging the car, not myself), but later that day I fell 45 feet and decked on a ledge, but no broken bones. “Thus far and no further.” I don’t climb anymore, as the result of hitting the ground way too much on high boulder problems. I was quite adept at landing from 20 feet…

My social existence, my relationships with others, is in a way antithetical to climbing. I always had a poor sense of social cues so I was mostly confused about “girls.” I never dated – didn’t know how to. Sometimes it seems that I missed out on so much, but now I feel more like I (and various “girlfriends”) dodged a volley of bullets. I didn’t know that I knew nothing. It was just awkward and uncomfortable. Ugh, way too many memories there…

I was never a good student. Even though my test scores were, well, whatever, I did enough to get by. I read everything though. I learned multisyllabic words from cereal boxes… I only became a good student when I connected to my purpose; then it was easy. Even the thought of a PhD or a law degree results in nonchalance. I still read voraciously but now it is more focused, aligning with – you guessed it – my purpose.

At the nearly ripe old age of 64 it has become clear that God protected me by withholding certain things and having me be blissfully unaware of it. He allowed glimpses of things that could have been but never were – these glimpses were His gift to me, saying that I was not a failure but His beloved. My old self used to think (far too often) “If you’re so smart why aren’t you rich?!” This prompted profound doubt of myself and the judgments of “I’m stupid, failure, worthless.” None of which of course are true. And now I am even grateful for those distortions as I have overcome them. The “yeah, buts” have no authority any longer, and what I have learned ironically makes them valuable.

Too often we rail against What Is, clinging to what Should Have Been! We miss out on so much. This distorted judgment obscures our potential to find and cultivate value, our Muchness. We are slaves to our own minds and don’t know it.

We all need a sense of purpose, to find some meaning in our lives beyond the acquisition of stuff or perceived status that makes us feel good about ourselves. I know what mine is and I am profoundly grateful. One night I asked Saber about hers and she replied that it seemed that it was to stick with me during my vast adolescence so that I could become the person God intended. She was, and is, my close personal guardrail, and she has the dents to prove it.

People come in and out of our lives, and I believe they all serve some purpose. For good or ill we can learn. Or we can be kicked off course. The same holds true for us with others; we have all been the bad guy in someone’s story, so I guess the idea is to do our best not to be, but perhaps even be the hero. I have 3 very close friends, the ones who accept me no matter what and I them. I matter to them and I honor that as best I can. One in particular I have learned so much from, been so blessed by, even though the learning and blessings have come at a brutal emotional price. Well, they were brutal at the time but I have done my best to learn and pass on the learning so I am grateful. I wonder sometimes what gift I have been in return, but that is none of my business and must let it alone. I no longer need to know. And it is the release from “need” that has been the greatest gift of all.

I could have been many things I suppose but I am who and what I am today, and I am grateful. I do not need anything except to serve my God given purpose as best I can. You go where you look, and I look with curiosity towards the future while paying attention to the present. It’s a gift, after all.

Eat a stick of butter

That got your attention didn’t it? A dear friend of mine used that phrase when I was feeling grumpy one day. The first piece of advice was to get my ass in the kitchen and bake some cookies. I did and it helped. The follow up was “bake a loaf of bread, eat a stick of butter, and scrub the floors by hand. That last bit will be undertaken on Friday morning; Saber bought me some Murphy’s Oil Soap and scrub I will!

There’s two important points to the advice, even if they weren’t intended in this way. First, the absurdity of eating a stick of butter tends to grab your attention. I mean really, it’s just weird isn’t it? Nobody does that. Totally left field. This is an example of the Turn the Mind skill from DBT, although the imagery turns it for you. The second reveals another skill, that of Participate, or Enter into the Experience. DO so One-Mindfully or with full attention. Eat an apple (much more appealing than a stick of butter!) It is a full sensory experience. There is the feel of the apple in your hand and the sensation of biting it. The smell and taste are bound together and there is often a satisfying crunch. And you see where you have eaten it and move it around as you go. All the senses are engaged!

We call this an Eating Mindfulness; we can turn our full attention to what is at hand, namely an apple (or a stick of butter if you’re so inclined.) I often do this in my classes with cookies. They too engage all our senses and are especially yummy. I mean I like apples, but a chocolate chip cookie… 🙂

So take my friend’s advice as I did and get busy paying attention! It’ll make your mouth happy and offer you a brief and very pleasant experience that may just make your day a wee bit better. And say thanks to Rebecca for her wisdom.

How are you?

An innocuous question, one that is asked every Sunday (lol!) at churches across America, and it is usually answered with “I’m fine.” Which is no answer at all but is accepted, usually in the same spirit in which it was asked – which is shallow and really disinterested.

My dear friend Zane asked me, the last time I saw her, “Are you happy?” And she meant the question with real depth and sincerity. That’s one of the reasons she is my friend. My answer was sincere and vulnerable and didn’t have to become a litany of my woes. It opened up opportunity for discussion of either the positives or otherwise as she perceived them to be appropriate.

I have been reading Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance and that question shows up. It prompts me to consider both the intention behind asking the question in a meaningful way – wanting to know the other person with greater depth – but also offering an opportunity to the other to answer as they can, to perhaps go into real vulnerability. I think about those who matter most to me and asking that question, hoping for an answer with depth. That hope is predicated on my relationship with them, how much I love them in the way that I do, and wanting to know them better.

Part of the problem may be that people don’t know how to answer the question, or aren’t able to as they are not used to even asking themselves the question. So many go through life with “I’m fine” as their internal default, all the while knowing otherwise (as evidenced by their internal dialogue.)

Now I pose the question to you dear reader: How are you?


Today I had this weird feeling. It was a queasiness in my stomach, an ache in my spirit. When I was teaching we were discussing the Observe and Describe skills where we observe feelings, body sensations, and then put the most accurate words to them. As I am wont to do I used my current state as an example, and struggled to find the right words to describe this feeling. My student said “you’re homesick.” And dang if that wasn’t exactly it! What prompted this was my (again) missing my friend but today it was louder than usual, more present. So I thought about homesick and why it was so perfect an expression.

When I think about my friend there is a sense of a very deep connection. There is a similar feeling when I look at the picture of K2. Both prompt very similar feelings. Weird, right? I see her picture and K2 and it’s so nearly the same: a sense on the deepest level of “home.”

I am told I think too much (to which I respond “that’s what I do!) so there is very fertile soil in this odd sensibility of home. We’ll see… What is it about these two disparate things that resonates so deeply in me?

I also used something she said to me in response to a recent whine and I used it with my student. First I was told to get my ass in the kitchen and bake cookies. So I did and of course it worked. Then she said “bake some bread, eat a stick of butter, and scrub the floor by hand.” To illustrate the Turning the Mind skill I mentioned “eat a stick of butter” and that did the trick. My student’s mind turned from her sorrows with DFCS and her kids to the absurdity of eating a stick of butter.

I then noticed an urge to tell my friend how helpful her silliness had been. The idea was to validate her and so feel good about herself. But then I thought about it and recognized that what I really wanted was to prompt a response from her. And that I did not like. That childish emotional mind need corrupted the value of her words and me validating them. I felt sick.

But then further down the rabbit hole I found that I didn’t need a response, that the value needn’t be corrupted. So I texted her and told the whole story, including the “need” for a response. I honored the value of her words and how helpful they were to someone she would never meet. And I left it at that.

It is the attachment to some outcome dictated by our childishness that we have to beware of, that corrupting influence that so easily infects the valuable aspects of ourselves.

Today (several days after the initial post) I am noticing again the homesickness and I think further about what “home” is, where, who and what. Maybe why, I dunno. Why may be a bridge too far.

I have always had this deep connection to the Colorado Rockies. Different places but the same sense of connection, of “home.” But I am not there, nor am I with my friend. But I am, in my heart, in my soul. And that has to be good enough otherwise my childish emotional mind starts up with “need.” Ugh. Gratitude helps recognize what is and ask “is there Home to be found here, now?” I turn towards gratitude and find connection with what is, and it is up to me to look for the deeper aspects of these connections, to ascribe Home to them too, and thus to experience contentment.

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